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Did Obama Get Nuke Review Right?

The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review strikes bold new policy ground, scrapping MIRVs, formally eschewing first strike in most circumstances and creating a unique category of possible nuclear targets -- rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. So we asked some of Washington's top nuclear and defense experts if the White House made the right choices. It's all part of our new, vibrant commentary section we call The Tank, which can be read at our parent website,

Here's the question we asked: "Did the Obama administration strike the right balance between nonproliferation, the threat of nuclear weapons and the calculus of conventional versus nuclear power"?

And here's the core of the opposing opinions we garnered:

Sharon Squassoni, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' proliferation prevention program, said Obama got it right.

Yes, the Obama administration did strike the right balance, primarily because the time is right. Throughout the Cold War, nuclear posture reviews focused on how the United States might counter the Soviet nuclear threat.  Nonproliferation figured very little at all, and nuclear weapons were clearly favored over conventional power....

Some may argue that what the United States does with its own nuclear weapons has little bearing on the actions of Iran, North Korea, or terrorists seeking nuclear weapons. This is clearly not the only reason to reduce nuclear weapons. But if reductions that are needed anyway can demonstrate U.S. commitment to the nonproliferation regime and enhance U.S. leadership and credibility, they can help win the critical support of other countries in the fight against nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Mackenzie Eaglen, defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation, does not agree with Squassoni.
The Nuclear Posture Review unnecessarily takes sovereign U.S. options off the table when responding to various types of chemical or biological attacks. Americans intuitively understand the flaw in this approach. Special agent Jack Bauer of "24" had to thwart terrorists attempting to steal nerve gas. If this had actually occurred, the President should not tie one hand behind the nation's back when evaluating the appropriate response to defend American citizens.

While limiting the declared use of nuclear weapons and response options, the strategy rests faith in the United States' ability to deliver devastating conventional attacks against perpetrators. This increases both the role and value of conventional forces.

Yet Obama is busy reducing U.S. military conventional capabilities held for the past half-century.

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